Spain-based developer Pyro Studios has made a name for itself with the Commandos games, a series of challenging tactical games that put players in control of a small, highly trained squad of military specialists behind enemy lines who were tasked with carrying out daring missions, armed with only limited equipment and their own exceptional skills. Later this year, the Commandos will return in a new adventure that will span three lengthy campaigns in Stalingrad, Normandy, and Berlin, and while it might be their toughest job yet, they've all learned a thing or two since the previous game. The Commandos squad has discharged Natasha "Lips" Nikochevski, the seductive female spy, and Whiskey, the loyal guard dog that joined their ranks in Commandos 2, so the team is leaner, especially since you'll be able to take only three of them into any given mission--this is because Pyro noticed that most players ended up completing most of Commandos 2's missions by using only a few characters anyway. However, the Commandos are also a lot tougher and trickier, since all of the remaining members can now equip and use firearms and can also drive vehicles.
Longtime fans of the Commandos series should already be excited to hear that most of their favorite troops are back and that they'll have new abilities, but developer Pyro Studios was concerned that beginners might have trouble playing the new game, as they did the surprisingly difficult first levels of Commandos 2. As such, the developer will include a multipart tutorial in Commandos 3 that will not only go over the basic game mechanics, but will also acquaint you with each of your soldiers' different abilities, and they'll have plenty.
Your soldiers will still be the exceptionally talented bunch they were in the previous games; the limber thief Paul "Lupin" Toledo will still be able to creep about unnoticed, while the sapper Thomas "Inferno" Hancock will still be able to detect and disarm enemy mines. However, your troops will have several new abilities across the board, such as the use of firearms to make direct kills (even the thief and spy will be able to use guns), as well as the ability to drive any of Commandos 3's numerous vehicles, including jeeps, motorcycles with sidecars, and tanks. Your troops will also be able to make use of environmental fixtures, such as stationary machine gun nests, but they'll also have new individual abilities--so when things get tough, you can expect to see the marine Jerry "Tiny" McHale reach down and pick up a mounted machine gun and carry it into the fray himself, for instance. Then again, in many cases, your team will have access to only a limited supply of ammunition, so they can't always go in with guns blazing. As with the other games in the series, the Commandos will best accomplish their missions using stealthy surgical strikes.
You'll lead the Commandos into battle across three major campaigns, which, interestingly enough, won't be segmented into specific missions. Instead, like in the previous games, you'll receive multiple mission objectives that will change as you complete your previous goals. If you can successfully complete your objectives, the campaign will advance with a brief in-game cutscene. As you might expect, the developers at Pyro Studios are great fans of dramatic war movies, so they're attempting to model the campaigns and their cinematics after famous war movies. For instance, in one of the early parts of the Stalingrad campaign, you must ferret out an enemy sniper before he can wipe out the rest of your Russian allies, in a situation similar to the sniper battle in the film Enemy at the Gates.
Beyond the Call of Duty
Commandos 3's other campaigns will feature comparably cinematic sequences: For instance, you can also expect to play through missions in areas that resemble other famous war movies, such as a mission in France that resembles the 1964 classic The Train, in which your squad must capture a Nazi-controlled train that is smuggling valuable French art out of the country. In one of the Normandy areas, you'll even land the Commandos on Omaha Beach, as part of the operation that was made famous in the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan.
Commandos 3 will improve on the previous games' core gameplay as well. Though the new game won't feature the secret bonus missions of Commandos 2 (which very few people uncovered), it will feature better means to manage your soldiers, such as the ability to set aggressive and defensive behaviors. One of the most useful ways this feature comes into play is when guarding specific areas. You can have a soldier hide in tall grass or within a building and lie prone to remain as out of sight as possible, and then set his behavior to aggressive--this essentially turns the waiting soldier into a booby trap that will fire on any enemy soldiers that stumble into view. Buildings themselves will be larger and have multiple stories, so they'll make good vantage points for snipers and may also hide items such as extra ammunition or first-aid kits. The process of carefully and quietly exploring some of the larger multistory buildings almost resembles a dungeon-crawling role-playing game; you've got to quietly creep up stairs and around corners to make sure you don't rouse any hidden enemy guards.
Even though you'll command a smaller group of soldiers in Commandos 3, you'll have the opportunity to command a squad of additional, nameless, faceless soldiers with specialized skills, such as automatic weapons or grenades. These soldiers can serve as basic scouts or cannon fodder, depending on the mission. And interestingly enough, though the series has become well known for its challenging single-player campaigns, the new game will offer a suite of intriguing new multiplayer options that will pair up teams of Commandos with these generic soldiers in head-to-head multiplayer games.
Commandos 3's multiplayer games will take place on the same maps as in the single-player game, and you'll be able to play them in three competitive modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag. In any of these modes, you'll be able to choose whether you'd like computer-controlled enemy soldiers to appear on the map, which can make the competition that much tougher. You can also choose to play in teams that include nothing but Commandos, or Commandos complemented by additional soldiers. In multiplayer matches, you'll be given a set number of character points that you can spend to recruit additional soldiers with varying specializations to add to your squad, then race to see who can take out the other team first. We were able to try a few brief matches in which the element of surprise proved to be critical--by sneaking up on our enemies, we were able to quickly, brutally dispatch most of them before the others could escape. Pyro is still in the process of tweaking and balancing the game's multiplayer modes, especially since certain Commandos, like the agile, wall-scaling Lupin, seem to have obvious advantages over other characters.
Commandos 3 looks like a very impressive strategy game that should hopefully prove every bit as challenging as the previous games but will also hopefully be more accessible for new players. The game is scheduled for release later this year.